Arizona is facing a structural budget deficit of $1.9Billion in 2011 and $1.5Billion in 2012. A daunting task considering the 2010-2011 budget is only $8.5Billion and the 2011-2012 budget is $9.6Billion. And with a large Republican majority in the Senate and House and a Republican Governor the only options they are considering are spending cuts. Cuts to healthcare , cuts to education, and cuts to services, but no cuts to prisons or public safety. Could the hands off on the prisons be related to the Brewer Administration’s ties to the Corrections Corporation of America: Chuck Coughlin and Paul Senseman?
While Brewer and her squadron of flying monkeys led by Pearce, Adams, and Kavanaugh were too preoccupied with their xenophobic anti-immigration quest, state finances weren’t placed on the back burner, hell they weren’t even in the kitchen! Further, her antagonistic rhetoric and war of words with the White House over immigration will come back to haunt her as she now needs a federal waiver to reduce funding of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment (AHCCC) else the state faces further lawsuits and forfeiture of the $7Billion it gets from the federal government for Medicaid.
Now that the one-time gimmicks, such as selling state buildings and leasing them back, are no longer in the deficit fighting arsenal, these misguided Republicans think the budget deficit can be solved solely with spending cuts. Unfortunately, these economics-challenged lawmakers haven’t realized that Arizona is facing revenue shortage not excessive expenses. According to George Cunningham, former state budget director, the state’s tax burden of $1,000 of income is the lowest it has been in decades.
What to do? Firstly the states leaders need to follow the lead of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker and find the right balance of tax increases, borrowing, and spending cuts. But most importantly, they need to work with the private sector in generating investment and get the state growing again. Unfortunately, when your governor acts like this, the chances of success are slim to none and slim left town because he is Hispanic.